Aug 18, 2022 News
…EU Ambassador says periodic delivery of travel document being looked at
By Zena Henry
Kaieteur News – As calls for the delivery of Schengen visas heighten, European Union (EU) Ambassador, Fernando Ponz Canto informed Wednesday that consideration is being given to have the travel document provided in-country periodically by consular officials as to ease the hassle of Guyanese having to travel to Suriname for permission to access European nations.
The Ambassador’s statement came shortly after President Irfaan Ali joined local stakeholders in registering the importance of the visa being delivered in-country, given the strong relationship the country has with its European partners.
The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GGCI) just days ago reiterated its long-standing call for the removal of the visa requirement that exists for Guyanese who wish to travel to the UK following the return of British Airways’ service to the country. At the launch of the upcoming Guyana/EU Chamber of Commerce event yesterday, former Trade and Tourism Minister, Manniram Prashad also called for an ease in accessing the travel document by having the facility in-country. He said that as Guyana continues to develop, and apart from being the richest country in the world per capita, the time has come for the facilities to be in Guyana.
President Ali added to the conversation saying that it is “nonsense” and “absolutely ridiculous” that in this modern world where Guyana is strategically positioned with sophisticated investors coming here, that local business people must spend days in neighbouring Suriname to access the visa to Europe. The President said that “it’s not a luxury for the EU anymore to take their time and grant us that facility”, since the bloc must understand that it is in their strategic interest to have that facility here in Guyana as soon as the next three months. The President suggested that the parties have to find a way to get the visa issue resolved; that is which embassy is in a position to get it done in the next three months and what Guyana must do to get it done. “We can’t have our business people going to Suriname to spend three days and then get a travel document…it’s “nonsense” that it is absolutely ridiculous” he told the gathering. The President also suggested that within the next 48 hours, the government and the envoy can “double down” on the issue, and “make the appropriate noise and get it done”.
The EU Ambassador in a side interview told media personnel that work has been ongoing in relation to the visa matter. He noted however, that the existing problem, “…is that this is not a responsibility of the EU, but of the EU members.” In other words, he continued, “the delegation of the EU doesn’t have the mandate to deliver any visas.” He said it is the competency of the member states and in this case, it is the Netherlands that delivers visas to Guyanese. Ponz Canto said he understands the frustration associated with having to go to Suriname for the visas, “but we are working hard to find a solution”, and facilitate change of the system. “Who knows perhaps, of course without any commitment, but one possibility could be that some officials could come periodically and deliver the visas. We are exploring that possibility, we don’t know whether it will work,” the Ambassador related.
He said the current system is not usual since there are countries that provide such documents to countries in other states, pointing to Cubans, for example, having to collect American visas here in Guyana. Ponz Canto noted that the matter is a complicated one, but issued his support for the complete removal of visas to travel to Europe. “What I would like is to get to an agreement for lifting the visa requirements, but this is clearly for the longer term.” He also shared the idea of having the office for the visa moved to Guyana, but noted the numerous difficulties in doing so, including the finance involved. United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner to Guyana Jane Miller recently highlighted that the British government was considering an assessment that could lead to the removal of visa restrictions on Guyanese travelling to that European state. She said that the visa issue is a matter that the nation is constantly looking at.
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